Thursday, January 31, 2013

This One Was So Weird~ Dreams

I don't dream much or at least I rarely remember them when I wake up. I'm not talking about the visions I get in prayers, but actual sleep time dreams. Those dreams I do remember have a point. This one was so weird, I have to share it.

This is one I remembered so vividly. It was about this blog and the writing in this blog. Maybe I've been focusing too hard on it now that I have two stroke organizations reading it. Or, that it finally sunk in that almost 300 people a day are clicking on my site. Or maybe, I noticed how many times I've used "I" and filler words in writing my blogs. Or maybe, my English grammar is kicking in with all this writing I've been doing. I didn't honestly know, but now I do after pondering it for twenty-four hours.

But here's how the dream unfolds...

 I get emails when someone writes a comment so that's the first things I do in the mornings over my cup of Earl Grey tea. I'm reading the comments to my blog and other emails. A person with the handle of 'Abby' writes: "And you call yourself a writer?" Then she proceeds to point out every time I've used the word "I" to start a sentence. As if that was not bad enough, she points out every time I used "ly" as a modifier and "that!." If it was just one post it wouldn't be so bad, but it went back two weeks on every blog I'd written! I'm scrolling past comment after comment.

I awoke with a start. I was so flummoxed I didn't even get dressed. I powered up my computer and fixed a cup of tea. I searched my emails for any comments by Abby. Whew! There were none, but I carried it a step farther. I searched all the comments on my blogs including the spams under Blogspot. Satisfied and breathed a sigh of relief, it was in fact only a dream. No Abby was found.

But the dream wouldn't let go of me that easily. It haunted me even though I was wide awake and for the past twenty-four hours since. My brain hasn't functioned right to let me edit text since my stroke. It was a quirky cognitive brain function I'd lost and was very frustrating to me. Then I realized, think flash bulbs going off in my head, it was exactly how I did a critique on a first editing pass. Every time I found "ly" as a modifier, I'd cross out the "ly" and jot in FBW (Find Better Word) and used the "find" function for every "that" which was used improperly as a filler.

This morning I opened my WIP and edited what I had written. I am EDITING! Wahoo! The dream was finally sorting itself out.

I've called myself Abby Normal since I saw the movie "Young Frankenstein" with Gene Wilder in 1974. I love that movie. The term Abby Normal just fit me me to a "T."
Dr. Frankenstein: Now... that brain that you gave me... was it Hans Delbruck's?
Igor: [Crosses arms] No.
Dr. Frankenstein: [Holds up hand] Ah. Good. Uh... would you mind telling me... whose brain... I did put in?
Igor: And you won't be angry?
Dr. Frankenstein: I will not be angry.
Igor: [Shrugs] Abby...someone.
Dr. Frankenstein: Abby someone? Abby who?
Igor: Abby Normal.
Dr. Frankenstein: [takes a deep breath] Abby Normal?
Igor: I'm almost sure that was the name. [He and Dr. Frankenstein laugh]
Dr. Frankenstein: Are you saying... [Stands] that I put an abnormal brain... [Puts hand on Igor's hump] into a 7 and a half foot long... 54- inch wide... [Grabs Igor by throat] GORILLA?!?!?! [Strangling Igor] IS THAT WHAT YOU'RE TELLING ME!?! 
< copied from Wikiquote>

The 'Abby' in the messages was my subconscious mind telling my conscious mind how to edit my own work. Now I can't wait for Abby to visit me again in my dreams, and tell me more. Maybe I won't have to hire an editor for my book after all. Well, I still might.

So have you had any weird dreams lately?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wednesday Writerly Way~ Networking for Sales

I learned in several businesses I've operated over the decades, networking is an invaluable sales tool. I mean honestly, if we didn't want to sell books we wouldn't want to publish them, right?

Here we are in the 21st century, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Doh! Social networking via blogs, websites, Facebook, MySpace, Google+, twitter, and all the hundred different sites you can promote on. The sky is the limit unless you do too much of it and are banned. Don't laugh. Authors have been permanently banned for making a nuisance of themselves with spamming. There is a limit to how much you can do before you are blocked, unfriended, deleted, or banned.

Initially, it was tolerated because there were only a few but these days authors are coming out of every nook and cranny. Some are good and some are not so good. It just goes to show you there's a book in everyone.

One of the most overlooked avenues of promotion, often forgotten, is the personal, face-to-face meetings. The human touch. When was the last time you bought a book because you saw a buy-my-book plea online? Never? Really? I guess I proved my point. That's not to say it can't happen, but it is the bottom of the promotion charts on how people buy books.

What's the number one way people buy books? Do you know? Yes, a recommendation from another person. Either you know the person who wrote the book, read pieces of it, or a friend told you how great it was. Sometimes lightning will strike and someone buys the book because of the cover or the write up about it. That's #2 by the way.

The human touch is as alien today as Sigourney Weaver's "Alien" movie because it takes-
  • Time
  • Human interaction
  • You have to actually meet people and go places
A case in point- pharmacy reps. They go and visit all the doctors in their service area. They carry with them assorted promotional gimmicks and samples, buy lunches for the doctors and their staff, and information in a concise format. They take this time to develop relationships with the doctor. Each and every one of them. They have something to sell and we, as authors, do too.

Gone are the days when a writer could hide away in their office and write. If you want to sell books you have to promote yourself and your books whether you are traditionally published or an indie like me.

Have no idea where to start? It will mean you have to get off your office chair and actually meet people. Oh no! Strangers! Remember one person will tell ten, those ten will tell ten each so put your best foot forward.

"You'll never guess who I saw yesterday. I saw Jo. Did you know she's published books? Some are about..."
You get the idea.
  • A feature article in the local paper. Everybody that knew you way back when likes to be associated with someone famous. As an author, you are famous or infamous for what you write. Everybody likes to say, "I knew her when..."
  • Are there groups in your area that can relate to what your book is about? There are some survivalist here, former spies and military, six zombie walks within 100 miles from home, a stroke survivor's group, and published authors, agents and publishers at annual writer's conferences within 100 miles of home.
  • Are there independent bookstores in your area? Most will welcome indie authors for readings and book signings as a draw into their business.
  • Reading groups? You can get feedback from readers, as well as a market source.
  • Libraries are a great place for readings and "Meet the Author" type events. 
  • Chamber of Commerce and their Speaker's Bureau.
The possibilities are endless. You may not make any money on the front end, but lo and behold the back end is golden.
But I hear you, you live in a small town that doesn't have anything much. On to a town that has less than a thousand people in it in the smack dab middle of nowhere.

My aunt donated a copy of Escape from Second Eden to my father's hometown. My grandmother was the librarian until her seventies. It is marked as required reading for the town and even the neighboring towns. I wrote the librarian a nice letter when my aunt gave them a copy. It is now framed and hanging on a wall in the library. The town fathers sent me a letter afterwards to give them a month's notice of my next visit so they could arrange a parade down the center of Main Street in my honor.

This is an extreme example for sure. But, from little acorns mighty oak trees grow. My head is still swimming after a year of receiving their letter. No, I haven't been back yet. I'm frankly too embarrassed by the honor they want to bestow on me.

All you have to do is talk.

Are you selling yourself short?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday Tumbling Term~ Statistical Analytics

Today's terms are are statistics and analytics.
1. ( used with a singular verb  ) the science that deals with the collection, classification, analysis, and interpretation of numerical facts or data, and that, by use of mathematical theories of probability, imposes order and regularity on aggregates of more or less disparate elements.
2. ( used with a plural verb  ) the numerical facts or data themselves.

noun, ( used with a singular verb  ) Logic. the science of logical analysis

As an indie author or traditional author, why should you care about the numbers. They are just number, right?

Correct, they are just numbers, but they say a lot when you are trying to measure your success or failure. It's all about accountability. Being able to show results and that means numbers. What was more successful than others and what not to do again. That's how I determined my blogging format for this year by looking at the numbers- which blogs had the most hits and misses.

Many sites offer analytics (the analysis of the numbers) to help the nonmathematician break down the numbers for you. Here on Blogspot is one of the best I've seen, but Facebook has it also. They break it down into numbers and graphs. Some of us are visually gifted, so the graphs gives us instant snapshots of what's happening.

Me, I'm used to looking at the numbers and gauging success or failure. I've got a sheepskin that tells all that I am. But the average writer does not have twenty math courses and some special knowledge of statistics. They spent their money more wisely on English courses to hone their craft.

I actually did both because being able to write correctly was important in business, but I was already a writer by then. I was even teaching English as a second language courses.

To be able to express the success, you have to understand the numbers. I'll use my Blogspot account as an example. For every given post, it gives me how many unique views I've had. For example, my most successful blog was November 28, 2012 with 811 hits. So platform building is a definite winner. The whole "Wednesday Writerly Way" series is succeeding. Next in the numbers is my "Sunday Stroke Survival" blogs. They are definite keepers. Least hits are the "Friday Fun," but it's still new. Once you can see the numbers, the decision is not hard on what's working and what's not.

Now expanding on the premise of statistical analytics, it's a platform growth chart. You can see where your audience is from. I've watched this blog grow from three hits  to over three hundred hits per day and climbing. These numbers are small in comparison to other authors, but not too shoddy for one blog out of millions that could be read. I'm happy about the numbers and looking forward to more growth. It's a far cry from 1,000+ hits per day, but I'm a wild card. I'm just another indie author trying to find a niche in the market. Take a look at the track record. This blog was started in December of 2010.

Without growth of new readers, this would be the death of this author. It is measurable over time. I find the more I talk about the craft behind writing and sales, the greater my sales become. By talking about my stroke and how I'm writing now, the larger my audience and readership grows both in this blog and generation of book sales.

An agent or publisher will want to know these number to exponentially promote your manuscript. That's why platforms are so important. It equals cash. So if you haven't checked your stats for your blog yet do so.

Hope this helps you understand the importance of statistical analytics.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Mailbox~ Pen Names

It's Monday so it's time to visit Tilda the Mailbox. This week's question is from a fellow writer.

Dear Jo,
You have so many pen names. How do you keep them all straight? How do you do the marketing and branding for that many names? I can only keep up with one. TIA, Greg

Okay Greg, let me take the first question. I use different names to distinguish the different genres of fiction and nonfiction I write. I'm an eclectic reader and an eclectic writer. In other words, I write almost everything. Currently my focus on healing after my stroke instead of writing.

J.L. Murphey is my suspense/ espionage/horror writer's name. I write suspense filled horror under this name also because in my mind it's writing suspense with zombies.

Cece Murphey, a distant cousin, is also a published author and ghost author. He's a Catholic priest and I'm a Protestant minister. Go figure. We see each other around and throw a "Howdy cuz!" back and forth, and ghosting business too in the past, because we actually like each other too. Enough trivia. 

For this persona, I'll drag out diaries, pull my hair back out of my eyes, and be total business as an author should be. I tend to dig deep into my personal skeletons buried deep in my brain closet. The place where the boogieman has a face and I'm terrified he'll find me. This writer can get so lost in the scenes and memories that everything short of death takes a back seat. This is the after hours activity writing. What's after hours for a writer? It's the time stolen from the beginning of the day and the wee hours of the night.

I used initials because someone once told me I write too much like a man. Of course, I was married before so all my nonfiction that is standard published is under that name. That's all going to change when I buy back my rights to all but one title. (See below)

Jo Ann Mefford is the name I plan on using for nonfiction.  There is a John Mefford, a distant cousin, is also another author friend. BTW my father's name is John also. I chose this name so my family could find my nonfiction. As many of you know, I have a huge extended family and they are my biggest supporters. All it takes is an announcement on the family website and a couple hundred books are bought within a month. Is that like nepotism? Nope, they are customers, as well as family.

For this persona, it's similar to the J.L. Murphey in looks and manner. There are stacks of research with annotations piled a mile high. It's strictly business and written mostly during business hours. Come five o'clock the computer is used for other things like word games.

Jolee Morriss is a combination of my first and middle name and Morriss was a street we lived on when I was a child.  I wanted to try my hand at southern fiction.  Notice the new cover!===>

For this persona, I'll use my worst southern belle slang. If you don't know what that is, listen or watch "Blue Collar" with Jeff Foxworthy of "you might be a redneck" fame. It's a version of the "good ol' boy" system crossed with a particular deep southern style of writing. I'll smack gum in lieu of chewing tobacco. Put on my jeans and a tank top t-shirt, and wee doggie, I'm in southern mode. By heritage, I'm a transplanted northerner. Shh, don't tell anyone. Keep it our little secret.

Grandma Jam is my pen name for my children's series. It's what my grandchildren call me. If you look Jam is my initials, but that's not why they call me that. I'm always in the kitchen cooking up something including jams and jellies. Since they have several grandmas from my children's previous marriages it was their way of distinguishing me from the others.

Now for this persona, I'll don an keeps all the eraser scraps and water colors from ruining my clothes as I illustrate my books. I'll wear my bifocals instead of my contacts. Of course, they will be positioned halfway down my nose and I'll make little squeal noises as I type- mimicking my grands as I originally told them the stories. Not that I can illustrate right now with a bum arm.

Johanna Kihara is a name that has not appeared in print yet. Shh, it's a surprise for next year or year after hopefully. Originally, my father wanted to name me Johanna but my mother couldn't pronounce it so it was shortened to Jo'Ann which when she pronounced it for years sounded more like "Dough Ah." Kihara is my mother's name. This is not to be confused with Jodie Kihara another author. No relation. It is also the only name that I will be writing under that does not have the initials "J" and "M." An author friend once advised me that when using a pen name to always keep the initials the same because it's easier to remember.

For this persona, I break out my photo of a glamor shot I had done twenty, er, um plus years ago and will wear red lipstick. But that's all I'm saying about this persona.

Jo Murphey is me. I'm also known as Joey, baby, honey, hey you!, Jojo, Mom, Mother, Momma, Mommie (depending on which daughter is talking), and a few other name calling names like "That witch with a 'B,' mainly used by my ex-husband.

But, I'm also Pastor Jo on pastorjosays dot blogspot dot com. With that also comes titles like Dr. and Reverend when and if I am able to go back to work.

I could be accused of having a split personality disorder if it wasn't all various phases of me and I know they exist. :o)

As for branding and marketing, I handle it like any other author. I have several Facebook pages under each author's name, my twitter account is under Jo Murphey just like this blog is. For publishing, I have a publisher's account on Smashwords, GoodReads, and CreateSpace I'm listed as either the editor or co-author.  Since I where all the hats anyhow, why not?

It would honestly be easier to choose one genre, or nonfiction to write instead of all these pen names, but life is short. Life is a smorgasbord, why not belly up to bar and write what you can? Since I'm an indie author, already pushing the boundaries, why not? It's a juggling match to be sure.

I think of it like Johnson's & Johnson's. They all all under one corporate umbrella, but they have many different products. When I promote and market each product it's like working in their advertising firm. I owned an international consulting firm which had  clients worldwide. Each one is handled like the separate entities that they were...not to mention their product lines. I guess the easiest answer is...I have experience doing the job.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival~ Pushing the Envelope

Today, I'm talking about pushing the envelope. It's been one of those kind of weeks.

I remember the opening lines of the original lines of Star Trek..."Where no man has gone before" Dum, Dum, Dum.  For the stroke survivor it's, "Where I have gone before and trying to get back to."

As I said it's been one of those kinds of weeks where I wanted to fight against the confines of what is normal. At least, what is normal for me right now. To stretch my boundaries and fly a bit into the previously known. It has been the battle of the caregivers in my house. I'm my husband's caregiver and he's mine.

Courtesy Andrew MA
In thi-s-s corner, is hubby dearest. Guaranteed to go at least two rounds, but as many as four. His record 64 wins out of 200 matches in 20 years of marriage, 60 by TKO and 4 by KO.He is a featherweight division contender at 134 lbs to my welterweight at 150.

Contestant #2, my eldest daughter. She's on a rematch from two weeks before where she fell under the champion's hefty, left undercut to the chin in the first round. She's a featherweight contender at 120 lbs soaking wet in heavy winter clothing.

Contestant #3, my youngest daughter. She's on a rematch from a month ago. Her hilarious Jerry Lewis style footwork had the crowd in tears of laughter, but she punched like a girl without her handy shovel back up. A welterweight contender at 140 lbs with her toddler in tow 160 lbs. A force to be reckoned with.

The champion, me, takes on all comers. She's fearless in her disability. What she has lost in mobility, she makes up with her cunning, practice, and advanced strategy of studying her opponents for decades.

What's at stake besides the championship belt...driving more, chauffeuring, and mobility.

Match #1 Begins
Jaunting Jo opens with the first blow. "Why won't you let me drive on the highway?"
Terrifying Ter counters with, "Because there's too much traffic."
"But I've driven all around this subdivision, one mile one way jaunts up the road and crossed several busy roads including the highway."
Terrifying Ter counters with a blow to the midsection, "In twenty years I haven't had an accident."
Jaunting Jo backs away breathless. "Neither one was my fault and you're forgetting the concrete post you hit."
"Oh yeah," Terrifying Ter whimpers and goes down for the count. "I guess you aren't going to get practice on the highways unless you drive them.
TKO Jaunting Jo.

Match #2
Jaunting Jo opens with a glancing blow. "I haven't heard from you in two weeks."
Combat Cat bobs and weaves. "You know I started my new job. If you needed something you could always call or text."
Jaunting Jo feigns a blow to the head, but punches her in the gut. "You live two blocks away. What happened to Saturday shopping?"
Combat Cat replies, "I guess you can't go by yourself, huh?"
TKO Jaunting Jo.

Match #3
Daughter #4 arrives with toddler in tow. Referee calls unfair advantage because a grandma can't fight with a cute, youngest grandchild smiling at her. She gives the baby to grandpa.
Jackhammer Jen opens with, "What are you doing without your cane?"
Jaunting Jo counters with, "I can walk perfectly fine without it in the house."
Jackhammer Jen hits below the belt with, "You're still healing from the last fall you had."
Jaunting Jo sidesteps the blow with some fancy footwork. "That fall was almost six months ago. My balance is much better now. See?"
Jaunting Jo bends over and scoops up her grandson with one hand from grandpa's lap and walks away.
KO Jaunting Jo.

A lot has been said about the difficult road caregivers walk. I know, I am one too. Sometimes they will try to clip your wings to prevent you from flying. Granted they do it because they love you. And as a stroke survivor, I understand the thoughts behind the recover takes educated chances to try and get better.
  • To push the envelope everyday. 
  • To try new things everyday.
  • To be allowed to try everyday.
  • To be allowed to fail this time and try again.
For caregivers to be effective they must have...
  • Compassion
  • Step in when asked
  •  Don't assume we need your help
  • Encourage recovery don't hamper it
I went to my first local support group meeting also this week. The stroke survivors and their caregivers seem to have it all worked out although they readily admit to battle of the caregivers, so I'm not alone in wanting to push the envelope. While each survivor had things they just took control over, and their caregiver mostly just stood back and let them. I will admit to being the youngest, as in newest, stroke survivor in the group, my DH, Terrifying Ter and I will work through it too. It will just take time.

I'm going to end this now before I breakout with a off-key, monotone version of "I Am Woman." But, nobody does it better than Helen...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Saunter~ Inspiration and Games Progress Report

 Yes, I know it's Saturday. I purposely leave two days a week blank for whatever strikes my interest. Initially, it was planned for Thursday and Saturday no blog writing so I could have two days off during the week without a regular blog post. But that is subject to today.

On the "Today" show this week there was an interview with a lovely, elderly couple. She had aphasia from a brain bleed. He was using flashcards at their normal daily jaunt to the coffee shop and helping her with her relearn the alphabet. Thank you, Rhonda Hand for sending me the link. Today Show click here to watch it.

A stranger thought it was inspirational of a man teaching his beloved. He took a picture and posted it online. It has gone viral with almost half a million hits. Although in the video the word "aphasia" is never said, people with this condition know it by that name.

Aphasia is a loss of words very basically. When your brain knows what it wants to say but forgets the word or even how to form or pronounce it. The person suffering with this condition gets frustrated with those around them when they can't speak, read or write. Just yesterday you could, but then you ended up with a damaged brain and can't.

For me, I have very mild aphasia now where my brain can't find appropriate words for what I'm trying to say. My manuscript is chock full of XXX (description of the word) to be filled in later. Or type a word and put it in colored brackets. Eventually, I'll remember the word or think of a better word and fill it in. Even this blog is written days before it is published so I can go back in it and edit. I'm working towards my goal...getting my words back. This is tougher than learning English for the first time because I know I know what the word is but can't think of it when I want it. It's petite death for a writer.

I had some experience with aphasia before I had my stroke. My youngest daughter was losing words and loved to talk. She would be chatting away when she would stop and mentally search for a word. Then she would say, "It's yellow. It grows on trees and monkeys eat it." You would tell her banana and she'd continue on with what she was saying. Her aphasia was due to too much iron build up in her brain. Her condition is hemochromotosis. The build up was so severe a few years ago the doctors gave me the-anytime-now speech. The speech every loved one dreads to hear. So I'm not a total stranger to the condition. So thank you, Jenn for showing this woman how to work around her condition before she knew she needed it.

On to fun and games. As you know, if you've been reading my blog, I've been playing games online to boost my cognitive/aphasia shortcomings. My DH (darling hubby) and have a subscription to Pogo that we renew every year. Originally, I thought of it a way to keep his brain active. When I came home from the hospital, the games I usually played were impossible. That's when I first knew I had some serious issues to address. There was no way I could keep up and play in the leagues I belonged to.

After I was home for a few days, I realized I'd lost all my foreign language abilities. Trying to pick up where I left off in writing my novels increased the magnitude of the deficit widened like a canyon before me. I couldn't write. The words blurred in front of my eyes making no sense whatsoever, but it was something I could work on. I laughingly dubbed it my "dyslexic/ADD."

I knew I had spelling problems, sequencing issues, memory matching, not to mention anything that involved strategy. I started simply. No time limit because I wasn't used to using my left hand with the mouse. I didn't care if I made mistakes and got an ugly sound. I didn't care whether I won or lost. I was being proactive and trying to fix something that was broken, but I set a loss rate of three attempts before frustration started to set in. That way I knew I had three times to get it right before I quit. When retraining the brain it is important to set limits.

I started with Tri-Peaks Pyramid because it was solitaire. I could retrain my brain with higher and lower values in sequencing. Across the top of the screen a man will travel across for each hand you win and open up treasure chests full on insane items and tokens. To the right is a snake which climbs the column depending on how many cards in a row you can match up. It gives you 1X, 2X, 3X the total score. But at this point the score is irrelevant.

I looked at the turn up card from the deck to decide which number is higher and lower in the sequence. You only have one undo per game so you have to really think. In the beginning, I would have to repeat to myself the number which was higher or lower than the card facing up. After months of playing this game I can now do this without constantly reminding myself.

Scrabble and Qwerty is a word game which does not allow for words to be spelled wrong. The timer is optional something to shoot for. I have now reached level fifty ( the highest) in both games and have moved on to timed games like Word Whackdown and Boggle Bash. I still don't have the speed I once did and play on the easy level versus the hard level I was on, but I'm relearning.To relearn effectively there must always be a challenge.

For color definition and strategy, I play Poppit. I have a rough time distinguishing green from blue. You have to match the colors in two or more balloons. I did something the other day that in my four years of playing the game I've never been able to do before. I popped every single balloon! That's real progress.

Currently I'm working on number recognition with Bingo and have progressed from one card and a slow caller to three cards to medium speed.

It takes repetitive action to build new pathways. Push towards recovery, but not to the point of frustration. Time and scores don't matter. You will be the winner.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Fun ~ Movie Review: Fire with Fire

Fire With Fire 
 Rating: R 
97 minutes

Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, 50 Cent, Richard Schiff, Vinnie Jones, Bonnie Somerville
Crime Action, Crime Dramas, Action & Adventure
After witnessing the brutal murders of a convenience store owner and his son; firefighter Jeremy Coleman barely escapes with his life. As he is forced to testify against the crime lord, Hagan, he is placed in the witness protection program. When his new identity becomes compromised, Jeremy is forced to take an unexpected course of action in order to get his life back and save the lives of those he loves.

My Grade
 A+for content
 A+ for acting
"Yes" A must see and would definitely see again

This movie has enough action to keep this action junky riveted. While Josh Dunhamel plays the lead, Bruce Willis plays a more minor roll as a detective. I've been a fan of Bruce Willis since he starred opposite Cybil Shepherd in "Moonlighting" way back in 1985. He doesn't disappoint in this movie with his attitude and demeanor.

Man against man and the question, what would you do if you had no other options to keep your loved ones safe. The answer, what wouldn't you do.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reading is Fundamental~ A commentary

Have we been raising generations of nonreaders? Or dummy down readers?

I spent years writing scholarly texts and technical writing. I also read that way. When I wrote my first fiction, I was shocked to read the average grade level for fiction was an eighth-grade reading level. I was insulted that I had to dummy down what I had written for mass consumption or the average reader.

When I was growing up reading was fundamental to succeed in life, for enjoyment, and to educate. I spent hours in libraries. When we moved constantly, about every 18 months, the first thing found was a church, but the second thing was a library. Growing up with a librarian grandmother didn't hurt either. She helped instilled in my young mind, the wonders of reading.

Yeah, I'm an old fart, but still when it is mandatory for school children to spend thirty minutes a day reading and you have to bribe them with free pizza, there is something wrong with this picture. Even now, you'd be hard pressed to pry a book out of my hand, or even an e-reader.

I remember when for a short time, my children were taught word recognition as a reading tool instead of phonics. Words like "turnkey" and "turkey" were often misread. Imagine you are going to buy a business. You read the ads.
"A turkey operation." That makes a whole lot of sense, doesn't it?

 I taught my girls phonics at home. They are better readers because of it. They sounded out words just as I did as a child. When teachers called me on it. I simply told them that their teaching methods were wrong and they were creating a generation of illiterates. Yes, I was opinionated back then too. I asked them how they were taught to read...phonetically was their answer. Just because something is easier doesn't make it right. These kids are now adults and can't read because nothing makes sense to them.

I learned to read in six different languages. I know, I'm abnormal, but I am better read because of it. In translating text from one language to anyone the meaning and beauty of the words written gets muddled.

I have an author friend who read that China is the hot market for readers. He wanted to use a translation gadget the change the language of his books from English to Chinese. I stopped him. 1) Many Chinese people read English better than most American, and 2) There was no guarantee that the translation would mean the same thing. There are many nuances to foreign languages. I told him his best route was to hire a person well versed in both languages.

But back to reading English...English is a third language for me, but I claim it as my own and since my stroke, I am only fluent in the one language so I'm normal again. Wohoo! I'm normal at something. That's a first.

The joy of reading is lost on today's generation, or maybe two generations. That's a terrifying thought for all us authors out there. Society keeps dumbing down the language so more people can read it, what's next? The average reading age will be fifth-grade or maybe second? Just to get people to understand what they are reading? Horrors! Perish the thought!

I read a survey once, the results are in the chart below.
Now that's even scarier! One percent read books outside of "Twilight" and "Harry Potter." While I've read both series of books and enjoyed them, there's more material that's readable and enjoyable. Thirty-four percent are not recreational readers that's a percentage my mind cannot wrap itself around! I read almost two hundred books a year not including magazines, and articles online. It's about 50/50, fiction to nonfiction.

So where do you stand?

Keep writing, reading, and loving the Lord.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wednesday Writerly Ways ~ How do You Know...

As an indie author, how do you know when it is time to publish? This is a toughie. There isn't just one answer. For me I could spend years tweaking sentences and never publish. So how do you know?

As a rule of thumb, my books will pass through six editing passes. It will go past six set of eyes at a minimum and critique group. It will be read aloud line for line, passed on to beta readers for content, and finally published. This process can be long or short depending on all of the parties involved, but still there will be some errors.

That's twelve pairs of eyes besides mine! With traditional publishing, that's how many hands your book will go through. So what's the difference? The people who view your book through professional eyes.

What does it take to have professional eyes, a degree in English, maybe. A slew of published books, maybe. Market savvy, maybe. Fortune tellers, ding,ding we have an answer. They foretell what the reader will be interested in reading 18 months to three years in the future. I don't know about you, but what I was interested in two years ago is nothing like what I am interested in now. And with traditional agents and publisher, they do it all in the first 50 - 250 words written.

Traditional publishers are also known as the gatekeeper. They dictated what the public reads. The indie authors have proved them wrong by appearing on the NYT best sellers list by storming the gate.

So how do you know when a book is finished? For me, it's when I think I've done everything I've done has worked. Will it be error free, probably not. But there's always the hope, that it is. Even the professionals aren't error free, but the author rarely hears about it as much as the indie published author. Someone in the publishing industry hears it first, maybe.

The indie author hears all. Readers expect perfection and hold the author to higher standards than the traditionally published author.  After all, they can put the blame on one person. It's simpler for the critics. All I can say is put your best foot forward as you possibly can, and hope for the best. It helps to have a thick skin too.  When you publish is up to you.  :o)

Keep writing and loving the Lord.